CHICAGO (CN) – Craigslist won a free-speech victory with a 7th Circuit ruling that granted immunity to the online classified advertising site, dismissing a discrimination claim brought two years ago by the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The committee claimed Craigslist should abide by the same antidiscrimination laws that newspapers follow when screening users’ ads. Specifically, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal to publish ads excluding tenants because of their race, gender, marital status, national origin and religion.
But Craigslist is a much looser forum in which customers sometimes post discriminatory housing ads that, for example, say “whites only” or “no children.”
The appeals court held that Craigslist should be treated as an Internet service provider, and that Congress granted ISPs immunity from third-party postings, since “information is the stock in trade of online service providers.”